McCain and the Bracelet

That night, on the couple's return home, she said to her husband, "I wonder if he'll really wear it.' I think I said I was shocked that I did that in front of that crowd. But I felt glad that I did."

When Stanley graduated from Kingswood Regional High School in 2002, he had no idea what he wanted to do next. He moved to Revere, Mass., to live his father, Richard Stanley. At first, he enrolled in a community college to see whether anything in particular seemed like a good fit. Nothing did, so he left school.

He then worked at a variety of jobs, including his family's seafood business. Still, none of them was right. In the fall of 2003 -- six months after the war with Iraq had begun -- Stanley announced to his family that he wanted to join the Army. He was 19 years old.

"He said, 'You know what, Mom? There isn't anything that I can see myself doing, I am going to go to the military. I am going to do what I think I should do and I'm sure when I come out, I'm sure I'll have a better grasp on what I want,'" Stanley said. "I said, 'Can't you wait until the war is over?' He said, 'No, that's why I want to go.' He thought that he could do something good for this country. He was proud to be an American."

As a mounted cavalry scout, the private did one tour of duty in Iraq, about 10 months, then he and his unit were sent back to their home base in Fort Hood, Texas. While he was there, he married Amy, a young woman he had met in Massachusetts.

He spoke often with his mother, but she said he rarely talked about Iraq.  

"He didn't tell me anything," she said. "He didn't want to talk about anything. I got the impression it was his job, maybe some of it he knew mom might be a little too worried. He was just a really good boy. He wouldn't have done anything to worry me in that respect, knowing that he would be going back some day. I think he just tried to keep it under wraps and say 'It's just my job, just my job, Ma. I just do what I have to do.'"

But on one occasion, he volunteered a little more than usual.  

"He actually said to me that [he] had heard from other soldiers that have come back that's not as bad as before," she said. "[He said] 'I'll be in a Bradley [Fighting Vehicle] and I'll be a lot safer.' [I said] 'OK, Matt, you know, I hope that's true. Be careful. We're praying for you.' Come to find out it wasn't as safe as he thought it was."

Two months into his second tour of duty, Stanley was riding in a Humvee -- not a heavily-armored Bradley -- in the city of Taji with two soldiers. A roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle, killing all three soldiers.

As his mother was growing up in Massachusetts in the 1970s, the Vietnam War raged.

Savage recalls being against the war yet when she heard that a local group was selling silver wristbands with the names of POWs and MIAs etched in them, she bought one.

She wore it for years before leaving it with her mother when she moved out to live on her own. The silver bracelet was lost over the years.

Many years later, as the United States prepared to attack Iraq over Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction, the mother of three adult children had doubts about the imminent new war.

"I don't think I was in favor of it," she said "I kind of thought that it probably should have been thought out a little bit longer before we kinda went. I wasn't thrilled when my son said he was going to join the military so he could go to war."

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